Subway Canada recently released a new ad campaign to promote their partnership with the mega plant-based “meat” producer Beyond Meat. The ad features home and garden business personality Martha Stewart, in which Martha promotes Subway’s newest product: Beyond Meat meatballs.
The creators of the video advertisement decided to play on the words “plant-based” by humorously stating that these meatballs are in fact grown from the ground. It is obvious that these food products are indeed not grown on a plant, however, the creators cleverly use hyperbole as a device to convince their audience that these products contain only plant-based ingredients, and therefore, they are essentially grown in the ground. In other words, the message is: if you have ever considered trying a plant-based product, try the Beyond Meat meatball sub at your local (and already familiar) Subway restaurant.
Despite the positive impact that the increasing amount of plant-based products available in the fast-food industry has (Heller, M. C., Keoleian, G. A., 2018), cultural studies analysis models, such as the Nesbitt-LarkingModel (2009) (Figure 1), reminds us that there is always a relationship between advertisements, corporate profit making and audience manipulation.Beyond Meat and Subway are major corporations that seek profit and therefore, it is important to critically analyze the “stuff you’re not seeing” in ads like this seemingly obvious corporate pairing.
Some Canadian corporations have wrongfully positioned themselves in the plant-based retailer market, such as Tim Hortons, which has recently pulled all Beyond Meat products from its menu (excluding the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia). This is precisely what Kutler and Turner mean by “placing products in appropriate retail outlets.” The consumer reaction to Tim Hortons offering Beyond Meat products is a point of assessment that challenges the marketing concept due to the fact that, although Tim Hortons employed the concept correctly, the profit results were not as expected because Tim Hortons is not the appropriate place.
We can infer that one reason for the failed profit margins of the Beyond Meat-Tim Hortons pairing is due to the fact that “large segments of consumers in western societies do not seem willing to eat a plant-based diet or reduce meat consumption” (Graça, J. et al., 2015). However, Beyond Meat may have “struck gold” with its recent partnership with Subway. Cristina Wells solidifies this statement by saying “[During the test,] a lot of guests came in expecting a great experience of us because we’re known for veggies and those kinds of options.” In other words, Subway has solidified themselves as a fast-food chain that emphasizes “fresh” ingredients and therefore, does not necessarily focus on their meat offerings. With that being said, these corporations are cleverly utilizing what Packard (1959) called “the subconscious level”, to the receiving audience of Canadian consumers by offering these consumers the change in their life that they desire, which is a slow transition to a plant-based diet, however, it is offered by a familiarity: Subway (the appropriate place).
THE CODES AND FORMS
The choice that Subway made to advertise their new Beyond Meat meatballs as a “meatball tree” promoted by Martha Stewart is a hyperbolic method that (Leiss, et al., 2018) refer to in Table 1.1 as a “product symbols” advertising strategy. The “meatball tree” and Martha Stewart, being internationally recognized as an icon of home and garden affairs, are symbolic attributes of the notions of plants and freshness and by-extension good health. Good health, I argue, is the conscious level message that audiences take away from this advertisement; it is not about food, nor plant-based meatballs, but about how these fresh products will improve your health.
Subway Canada has cleverly paired with established plant-based food producer Beyond Meat as a means of shared-profit-advantage for both corporations. Both of these brands compliment each other and thus supply a demand for a product, which is the foundational aspect of Kotler and Turner’s marketing concept. Although Graça, J. et al. (2015) found, through their data, that “large segments of consumers in western societies do not seem willing to eat a plant-based diet or reduce meat consumption,” we must keep in mind that this study was published in 2015 and does not necessarily reflect the current discourse on plant-based diets. If the tests that Subway performed are any indication, then we can conclude that there is an increasing amount of consumers who are in fact looking to reduce their meat consumption and Subway has finally found the perfect corporate partner to help North Americans take on this new “healthier,” plant-based lifestyle.
Heller, M. C., Keoleian, G. A. (2018). Beyond Meat’s Beyond Burger Life Cycle Assessment:A detailed comparison between a plant- based and an animal-based protein source. Regents of the University of Michigan.
Nesbitt-Larking, P. (2009). Politics, Society and the Media (2nd Edition). Broadview Press.
Leiss, W., Kline, S., Jhally, S., Botterill, J., Asquith, K. (2018). Social Communication in Advertising (4th Edition). Routledge.
Kotler, P., Turner, R. E. (1981) in Social Communication in Advertising (4th Edition). Routledge. (2018)
Packard, V. (1959) in Social Communication in Advertising (4th Edition). Routledge. (2018)
Graça, J., Oliveira, A., Calheiros, M. M. (2015). Meat, beyond the plate. Data-driven hypotheses for understanding consumer willingness to adopt a more plant-based diet. Appetite Journal, Elsevier.
Why do I feel distressed? Why is it that I’m constantly worried about situations that normally don’t bother me? Am I projecting the right image?”
If you have ever asked yourself these questions, you are not the only one. As per statistics, the level of anxiety has become an epidemic in our society in the past few decades.
THE BRAVE NEW WORLD
Our way of life has changed dramatically in recent years and the pace at which we must live has picked up so fast that our abilities to adapt can no longer keep up. Sometimes it feels like we are all living our lives in a fast-forwarded TV show! We are always rushing through the moments of our lives toward an unknown; never taking a pause, out of fear of being left out. We are living in the “brave new world,” where news is more easily broadcast and where information equals money and intelligence equals success. Not only can this be seen in a wide demographic, but also, on an individual level. We have to know, we want to know, everything, all at once.
I used to believe that this feeling of social vulnerable and isolation was unique to celebrities and people of power. However, now this vulnerability has become part of society at-large. We have entered an age where we enjoy being seen; we are all, in some way, content producers and the guardians of our own personal brand! We see ourselves through the lens of a camera and we experience the world through the frame of an app. We all desperately aim for the perfect image of ourselves and we measure this perfection by the number of likes and followers we get. However, how does this need for acceptance affect the perception of ourselves?
THE NEW YORKER GOT IT RIGHT
There was a very interesting cartoon in the New Yorker published on November 9, 2017, in which a woman just finished a marathon in a forest and the caption reads, “If you run a marathon in a forest, but there’s no one around to social media about it, did you really run a marathon?”
Farley Katz, the creator of the cartoon, uses comedy to pose a very important question about the state of our world today in which people do not feel self-achievement unless they know that others have seen it.
I have always believed that Greek mythology has an interesting perspective about looking at world and analyzing human nature through a set of beautifully crafted stories. Mammon, coming from Greek roots, is the term used to represent “money” and material wealth, but more importantly, it is associated with the greed-driven pursuit to “gain.” Here, I draw on a contemporary parallel to gain a following.
LOOK AT YOUR WATCH FROM TIME TO TIME
We are humans and we are fundamentally limited by time. Therefore, it is important to look at our watch from time-to-time. We have to remember to pause and reset. Remember to ask yourself: do you know what your goals are in life? And, are they going to serve your happiness?
If you’re a frequent Instagram user, you’ve probably noticed by now that the social media giant has undergone some rather drastic changes in the past few months. These changes are long overdue and much needed! The changes (or updates) directly affect what people in the tech industry call the “user experience.” In other words, Insta is finally addressing an issue that has had many parents worried for years: their social media has a seriously toxic and addictive user experience, especially among younger users.
LIKED BY … AND OTHERS
In an effort to decrease the addictive nature of their software, one of the major changes that Insta introduced was disabling the ability for most users to view how many “likes” a post received. Instead, users simply now only see the name of one user, followed by “and others.” (Note that this update did not affect certain Instagram accounts, such as accounts registered as an artist.) Although you still get bombarded with the dopamine-induced heart symbol notifications, and users are still able to see who liked their post, Insta has nonetheless attempted to shift the focus of their software away from “competitive liking” and more towards post appreciation.
REMOVAL OF THE “FOLLOWING” ACTIVITY MONITOR
The only reason I can think of for needing to see what other people are doing on Insta is if I had a career in marketing or statistics research. In early October, the developers behind the software removed the ability for users to see the like activity of who they follow. Under the “following” tab, a user was able to see which posts were liked by whom. Can you imagine the plethora of issues that this must have caused? To add fuel to the fire, you were able to see which users recently followed other users. In other words, if your friend started to follow someone you don’t like, you would be able to see this activity and voila, the drama begins! Yay Instagram for removing this feature and keeping friends together.
In an effort to promote the exposure of more creative and inspirational content, Insta added buttons on their explore page that allows you to quickly search through various categories of creative subject matter. The buttons include topics such as Style, Decor, TV & Movies and Art, among many.
SOME OF IT HAS TO COME FROM YOU
No matter how many changes, algorithms or filters Instagram can possibly develop, the best way to have a positive experience on social media ultimately comes down to you (the user) and how you use it. Instagram’s algorithm for what you see on the application is based on what the system thinks you want to see the most. The way this algorithm operates is through monitoring your “taps.” Therefore, each time you tap on anything on Instagram, it is logged for your account and then their system pushes more of this content your way. All of this to say, Instagram can only do so much on their end to ensure that their users are safe from harmful messages and social media addiction, however, the only way you can truly have a safe experience is by wanting to.
WE GET IT, CLIMATE CHANGE IS BAD, BUT WE HAVE DONE SOME GOOD
We’re all aware by now that the oceans are rapidly rising each year, the arctic regions are gradually transforming into tropical paradises and our blue whales are choking on plastic waste. The topic of global warming and how the human race is treating this planet is finally becoming an international concern and the advocates for climate change have sparked a worldwide conversation. We have come a very long way.
WHERE DID CLIMATE AWARENESS BEGIN?
The year 2000 is really where this story starts for me: The 45th Vice President of the United States, Al Gore, began to raise awareness about global warming. Although Gore did attempt to spread awareness before the 2000s, it was during his election campaign, and while in office, that his message became a topic for discussion, although very few took his concerns seriously. Do we have Gore to thank for where we are at today in terms of the global awareness of climate change? The answer is of course subjective, however, I don’t think he gets enough appreciation for his efforts.
Seeing as it is Earth Day 2019, I thought I would shine a light on just a few of the many things that are currently going on at the international level to help save our beautiful blue planet.
The thing I appreciate most about this list is that most of the people involved in starting, running and funding these efforts are of independent source, meaning there was no government funding. Although some governments in the world are beginning to crack down on global warming, these independent NGOs and companies are all helping the fight to protect our planet in small ways but that can, in turn, result in a major differences. *Please keep in mind that this list is of course of my own observation and may not fully capture every subjective angle of the international efforts to fight global warming, climate change and mass pollution.
1. Artists Lending A Hand
As the conversation surrounding this topic grows, artists have begun to do what artists do best: Comment on what is happening in the world around them through various mediums. One of my favorite contributions made by artists is the recently released music video and song sung by Lil Dicky, written by David Burd, Benjamin Levin, Magnus August Høiberg, Josh Coleman and Jamil Chammas and produced by Benny Blanco and Cashmere Cat entitled “Earth.” Although the lyrics of the video are not as flattering as the message itself, the point gets across nonetheless. In addition to this, the song features over 16 different internationally renowned musicians, that have assisted vocally, in making this magically animated music video a globally trending message about global warming, climate change and mass pollution. You can see the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvuN_WvF1to
Another beautifully terrifying work of art is The Anthropocene Project by Canadian photographer and artist Edward Burtynsky. I first saw Edward’s work at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario and completely fell in love with the artist’s dramatic photography. He mainly uses dark commentary and perspectival photography (among other medias) to demonstrate human beings’ affect on planet Earth. Check out some of his work in effort to raise awareness here: https://www.edwardburtynsky.com/projects/photographs
2.The Amazing Ocean Cleanup Companies
There are two (of many) companies that have been founded in an effort to clean-up Earth’s oceans; These companies are 4Ocean and The Ocean Cleanup. Although they’re both geared towards the objective of cleaning up Earth’s oceans, they both have a very different mission on how to do that and each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
4Ocean has 24/7 crews cruising the oceans of the world, collecting primarily plastic waste and then repurposing this waste into bracelets for profit. Each bracelet contains approximately 1 pound of waste that was cleaned up from the ocean and repurposed. You can check them out here: https://4ocean.com/collections/all-products
On the other hand, The Ocean Cleanup is an NGO, which crowdfunded over 2 million USD in 2014 from supporters in over 160 countries around the world with the goal of engineering a naturally-forced waste pickup system that would independently sail the seas collecting waste. This amazing system is now making its way towards the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is located between the US states of Hawaii and California. The cool thing is that, if you had enough money, you could actually fund your own cleanup system! The only question I have is: What are they going to do with all of this plastic once they collect it? You can check out a live feed of the Ocean Cleanup System #1 here: https://www.theoceancleanup.com/system001/
3. The “We Will Plant a Tree for Every…” Popular Marketing Campaigns
I’m not sure if they were the 1st to do it but a company entitled “TenTree” has been around for a while now and seems to be one of the first to think of this genius way to make money while helping to save the planet. TenTree was started in 2012 by a group of Canadian friends from Saskatchewan. The very optimistic promise made by the company is to plant ten trees for every product you purchase. Although the products are quite expensive, people will generally disregard the high price tag because they know that there money will go to good use.
Companies like TenTree have started to create a trend and we are now seeing more and more companies following in their footsteps. For example, you may have seen recent news updates about these drones that are planting trees: https://www.droneseed.co/
4. The Societal Pressure on Corporations to Reduce Plastic Packaging
It has become a growing trend for corporations to begin reducing their plastic packaging usage. One of the best examples I thought of is Starbuck’s banning straws from their stores and introducing their “recyclable strawless lids.” There is of course always a debate to have about the effective nature of these initiatives and if they will really solve the issue, however, I for one am glad to see that these massive corporations are finally developing ways to continue to sell their products but in a more eco-friendly way. https://www.starbucks.ca/responsibility/environment/recycling
There have been some excellent documentaries released in recent years that have made what is causing global warming easier to understand. These documentaries are very good at taking the massive amounts of scientific data, research and information and forming it all into a film or a series that anyone can then learn from. Maybe this is what Al Gore was missing? The ability to communicate his message in a way that the masses understand.
One of the best examples I can give is the newly released documentary series One Strange Rock, which features actor Will Smith as the host. Netflix’s description of the series is the following: “This series follows eight astronauts who share their unique perspectives on Earth, the fragile and beautiful planet we call home.” There it is, right there in the show’s description: Earth is fragile. Although it’s not the main theme of the series, what One Strange Rock is really trying to say is that our planet and its resources are not unlimited, in fact, the very opposite is true: They are very limited and we are slowly running out of… well… everything. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend watching this! https://www.netflix.com/ca/title/81071666
Smartphones are the center of everything that defines our modern daily lives and the way that we communicate with one another. Whether it be through communication, our consumption of entertainment, or the new ways we gain information; our lives have been forever changed by the unique qualities that smartphones provide us with. In fact, smartphones, and social media by extension have become so synonymous with our lives that many of us can no longer imagine living without these devices in the palm of our hands at all times. This has led to some concern with some researchers claiming that overuse in smartphones has caused a severe uptick in depression and anxiety. With it being such a major part of our life, could our reliance on smartphones be having a negative effect on our mental health and causing us to be the victim of an addiction that is beyond our control?
According to researcher Dr. Jean Twenge, smartphones have been the single largest contributor to a rising rate of depression amongst teens and young adults. Twenge published her findings in the aptly-titled, ‘Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?’ in the September 2017 edition of The Atlantic magazine. In the article, Twenge claims that social media, and its easy access through smartphones, have been the largest contributors to anxiety amongst teens, which leads to loneliness and insecurity. In some serious cases, Twenge believes that teens who use social media for more than three hours a day were more likely to have a risk factor for suicide, making children born between 1995-2012 the most at-risk generation yet. Twenge believes that the biggest cause of this is due to the perception of unreality that social media feeds to its users.
Living in the age in which we document each of our activities online, browsing through social media can have its implications on our mental health. Twenge claims that because the nature of social media encourages users to broadcast the most fascinating and exciting elements of one’s activities, these postings create an unrealistic perspective of the lives of those we are connected with. While falling into the trap of looking at someone else’s far more exciting life, we begin to feel unsatisfied about our own. We become increasingly unaware that what we perceive are far from reality. In other words, the view seen through social media becomes unrealistic and is causing a negative implication on our mental health as a result.
When it came time to take upon a topic for my Integration Project, a project that is required of TAV College students completing the Arts, Letters, and Communication program, I decided to dedicate it to uncovering the effects that these devices, as well as social media platforms are having on our long-term health. Of course, I couldn’t approach the subject without reflecting upon myself and so I set out to document the ways that social media was influencing my life, my mental health state and, not to mention, my productivity. Needless to say, it was difficult to get through one single project without picking up my phone to answer messages or scroll through Instagram. Altogether, I noted that I spent over two and a half hours on social media each day, between checking my phone to view messages and comments or even just to scroll through my feed. Not only was this a detrimental blow to my productivity but it was evident that an overabundance of social media was negatively impacting the viewpoint of my own life and that something needed to be done about it. It was at this time that I decided to pursue a challenge that would see me quitting social media altogether, for as long as possible. The only problem? I was just as addicted to my device as Dr. Jean Twenge suggested in her findings.
It was evident that staying off my device was going to be a challenge and it was one I failed at miserably. It would be difficult to make it through the day without scrolling through my Instagram feed to check what I’ve missed out on in the world, since I last checked. However, I began to pay closer attention to how I perceived the world that was showcased through Instagram or Facebook, which almost always exclusively shows the positive, exciting aspects of my friend networks’ lives; As if to show that their life is increasingly more exciting than my own. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t maintain social media as a haven of positivity and connection but many of us find ourselves using social platforms as an effort to gloat about our own exciting activities in an attempt to feel better about ourselves. When we find ourselves on the receiving end of such a message, it dissuades us from being happy about our own lives and accomplishments, in comparison to the brightly-contrasted photos or fake-laughter photos of our friends making it seem like they were caught reacting to the world’s funniest joke on camera.
Even if it remains difficult to assume the challenge of disconnecting from these devices, this approach shined a bright light on how social media truly influences our lives. While it’s easy to suggest and more difficult to take action upon, it’s important to find ways to disconnect from our devices that connect us to the ones around us. More importantly, it’s important to remember that while our devices may offer the ability to connect us closer to our friends and family, the perception and the reality is never quite the same.
There’s an age-old saying that goes; if the product is free, then you are the product. With a never-ending list of free products and applications that regularly rule our lives, from games to social media applications, these apps may not bring a loss to your wallet but they will certainly cost you nonetheless. The only charge associated with it: Your privacy.
In March of 2019, co-founder and CEO of Facebook Inc., Mark Zuckerberg, published a three thousand word essay outlining Facebook’s new plan to prioritize user data and improve the safety of this data in the future. Zuckerberg’s post is likely an attempt at damage control following several scandals of data breaching and instances of data misuse. As a result, Facebook has been at the forefront of controversy for many months but even while Facebook’s stock may have dropped, which also includes the Facebook-owned applications Instagram and WhatsApp, the company remains popular. However, what happens when a major company like this, one that owns more than half the market share of social media and digital communication, violates basic privacy ethics? And, how do we hold them accountable?
These issues may not even come as a surprise to frequent social media users, because the use of our private data is part of what shapes our personal social experiences on these platforms. Social media platforms gather your data to understand your unique consumer behavior, in order to create effective targeted advertising. With this data, social media companies can properly provide advertisers with quantifiable data about consumers for businesses to capitalize upon. Therefore, each and every advertisement that appears in your social media feeds are out there using the very data that you gave over to the company. Factors like this include, your geographical location, your education history, occupation, your likes, beliefs, and even your face.
Picture this scenario: You just finished uploading photos from your recent exciting holiday party and immediately upon uploading these photos of you and your friends, Facebook has already identified the faces in the photos and asks if you’d like to tag your friends in those photos. Meaning that Facebook’s facial recognition adds to the fact that the company knows everything about you, from your worst time-wasting habits to your own unique face (which gets more disconcerting when you consider that there’s a large database that stores and recognizes your face and can identify it as such whenever it appears in a photo or video.) Perhaps you become concerned by a major conglomerate’s ability to recognize you and quickly rush to Facebook to delete all the photos and videos of yourself from the platform. That may seem effective at first, until you consider the March 2018 report by New York Magazine, which claimed that the company hadn’t deleted any of the videos after users tried to delete old videos and other content that was still living on the company’s servers. This led to the company apologizing for this practice and promised to truly delete them upon user request. Despite everything, by using Facebook’s platform and agreeing to its Terms of Service, you provide the company with the license to use any pictures and videos that you publish to the platform for their own purposes. In other words, while the copyright to the photo may be your own intellectual property, Facebook reserves the right to re-publish your picture on one of their pages or use your likeness in a television commercial without paying you a dime.
Taking this all into account makes recent scandals surrounding the company even more troublesome, including last years infamous Cambridge Analytica scandal. Cambridge Analytica was a political consulting firm that leveraged data mining and data analysis to create communication strategies for political campaigns. During the 2016 election cycle, eighty seven million users had their personal data breached by the consulting firm through the two hundred seven thousand users who provided data for an app called “This is Your Digital Life”. Facebook gave permission to this third-party app to collect data of users who consented to answer surveys about their digital usage habits for monetary compensation. Violating their agreement with Facebook’s terms of service, the Cambridge Analytica application instead also gathered the information of the “friend network” of each user, which breached not only the users themselves but the entirety of each of their friends on the platform and beyond. With this data, the firm set about creating strategies to help boost its political client during that election cycle, the now-president Donald J. Trump, which led to Russian interference in the U.S. election using Facebook as a primary tool to spread false information through targeted advertising.
Aside from Facebook’s very disconcerting issues surrounding their ability to combat false information (all the while profiting the very same advertising), a far more personal question that we ought to ask ourselves is: How do we want these conglomerates to handle our private data and information? Ultimately, it comes down to how we legally view the service and the company as a whole. When testifying before the United States Supreme Court last year, Zuckerberg stated that he views Facebook Inc. as a “technology company” rather than a media company. The issue that lies here is that we don’t yet have guidelines to how we hold social platforms accountable with the law. Should Facebook be deemed a media or publishing company, it would be held accountable to laws and restrictions set in place for several decades, enforcing transparency from the electoral candidates themselves. In the meantime, United States lawmakers have scrambled to decide just how to regulate Facebook, and just what that regulation might even be.
Despite Facebook’s somewhat unethical practices, it’s certain that even with user dissatisfaction, its practices aren’t going to change anytime soon. This is because Facebook isn’t as interested in creating a positive user experience than it is interested in mining your data to sell to other corporate advertisers. Perhaps the biggest selling point of Facebook’s multiple major brands is that all of your co-workers, friends, and family members are omnisciently present on the platform, which makes it an integral part of how we communicate. In fact, it would be even more of an inconvenience to quit the platform entirely seeing as how our lives have become so integrated with it. It’s important that we remain careful about how much of our data we choose to share with these companies. The more that we surrender our privacy to the product, the more that we ourselves become the product worth re-selling.